Arizona resident Guadalupe “Lupita” Garcia de Rayos made headlines late last week as the possible first person deported under President Trump’s recent immigration order. An undocumented immigrant, she had been complying with regular check-ins at her local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office for eight years, each time emerging from the meeting able to remain a resident in the U.S. But this year, that changed.
Late Wednesday evening, Garcia de Rayos found herself arrested and detained in an ICE van awaiting deportation, with a crowd of around 50 protestors blocking its path and one tying himself to a wheel to deter the deportation from taking place. Among them were her two children: 16-year-old Angel and 14-year-old Jaqueline, both U.S. citizens by birth. Protestors chanted, “liberation, not deportation,” as they fought for several hours to prevent Garcia de Rayos from being taken away; although the demonstration was peaceful for the most part, seven of them were arrested. Despite this, the van managed to leave via a different exit and the success of Garcia de Rayos’ deportation to Mexico on Thursday morning was soon confirmed by ICE.
Events like this have been a long time coming: back in November 2016, Trump’s vow to deport up to 3 million immigrants was already causing a stir. Even earlier- the previous summer- he released a detailed immigration plan outlining specifics for such a move, with three central ideas forming the backbone of a policy with the potential to impact the lives of an estimated eight million immigrants. The first of these and the most widely discussed is the US-Mexico border wall, followed by full enforcement of immigration laws and the principle that “any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages, and security for all Americans.” Around the same time, he was also known as a staunch advocate for the reversal of a U.S. law, detailed in Title 8 of the U.S. Code, that granted citizenship to every child upon birth on American soil regardless of parental immigration status- the same law that allowed Angel and Jaqueline Garcia de Rayos to attain their citizenship.
In the weeks since Trump was inaugurated, he has signed numerous executive orders- one component of an order, overlooked due to higher-profile actions, was responsible for prioritizing deportation of criminal undocumented immigrants. With regards to this, Trump also expanded the definition of criminal alien to include those who have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” In other words, a history of conviction is not required for an undocumented immigrant to become a target of this order, nor is a recorded criminal charge- although both conditions are included as additional grounds for deportation.
Furthermore, any who “have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,” or “are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States” are also at risk to be removed from the United States. The New York Times points out that the former category “includes anyone who has used a false Social Security number to obtain a job,” a common occurrence among illegal immigrants. However, while previous administrations have conducted deportations, Trump’s order has the broadest reach yet and therefore the greatest potential for damage. By the end of the Obama administration, 90% of undocumented immigrants were not in danger of deportation, as immigration officials prioritized the removal of those who posed an actual threat to the nation, including violent offenders and gang members. Under Trump, every single individual who has entered the country illegally is now a target.
All in all, Garcia de Rayos’ deportation did not come as a surprise. She had already been previously arrested and detained, receiving an order to return to Mexico that she later appealed. Her check-ins were a condition of her continued residence in America. While they so far had caused her no trouble, given this year’s political context, Puente Arizona had arranged for a rally to take place outside the office where her meeting would be held; the migrant justice organization was already anticipative of her arrest and detention.
Now torn away from her family, Garcia de Rayos has vowed to “keep fighting so [her children] continue to study in their country, and so that their dreams become a reality.” She was only 14 years old when she made the crossing from Mexico to Arizona and became a target of Trump’s order because of an identity theft incident that took place in 2008. Having been discovered using forged documents to secure employment at Golfland Sunsplash, an Arizona water park, she then pleaded guilty to the most minor of felonies and spent a total of 6 months in detention. However, the Obama administration chose not to act on her deportation order, because she was not considered a priority at that time.
Her immigration lawyer, Ray Ybarra-Maldonado, claims that her removal “has 100 percent to do with the executive order… her case is no different than the last time she checked in. The facts are 100 percent the same. The only difference is the priorities for removal have now changed.” At a press conference on Thursday, he continued to speak in her defense, saying, “What was Guadalupe doing to you last week that was causing you harm? Absolutely nothing. This has nothing to do with public safety.”
Garcia de Rayos’ situation is not at all expected to be an isolated case; we can be certain that she is only the first in a wave of deportations under the new rules. As a result, those at risk for deportation may stop attending future ICE check-ins, choosing instead to seek sanctuary or go into hiding in an effort to remain within the United States. According to the BBC, Mexico is alerting its citizens on the other side of the border to “take precautions and… keep in touch with [their] nearest consulate, to obtain the necessary assistance to face a situation of this type.” This is an uncertain, anxious time for the illegal immigrant community as they fear uprooting and separation from their families, and the worst of it may be that Trump is only just getting started.
This article was written by Jade Carraway, a writer for dusk magazine.